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Shortened Uniform Resource Locators (URLs)

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In the fast-paced internet-based market of today one of the latest trends has been using URL shortening services. For those who aren’t familiar with this trend, there are services such as: Bitly, Su.pr, Owl.ly, and is.gd to name a few which are designed to allow web users like yourself to shrink or shorten your site’s URL and allowing you to track traffic and the number of times your new small url has been clicked along with some other metrics.

Let’s look at an example, you may have the following page on your website: “http://networkingstar.com/newsletter-videos/networking-star-featuring-tim-sales” this URL is quite informative, it’s long and verbose telling you exactly what you’re loading into your browser. Now here’s a shortened version generated from Bitly: “http://bit.ly/sXBtWz” nice and concise, and the link provides you a method for tracking the popularity of your site and it’s content. So far the use of these services sounds great right?

From a personal standpoint the only large drawback from using one of these services is that every time you generate one of these shortened URLs you’re going to be syndicating that link out to various platforms (blogs, twitter, facebook, etc). In doing this you’re creating a complete reliance on that external service to route traffic from their system over to your website. This may not seem like a big deal, but in the case that the service was to experience temporary downtime or just plain shutdown you potentially have a long list of broken URLs referring to your website all over the internet, and bad links will negatively effect your site. I could just be paranoid, but it seems like a legitimate concern for your business that is completely avoidable.

As for an alternative, why not just pick a short base URL for your site? Your development staff can also create a customized URL structure that gives pages/posts on your site short, unique, and easy to read web addresses. In addition, the metrics provided by shortening services can easily be replaced with analytics tools like those provided by Google, Yahoo, or Compete (to name a few) all of which are highly likely to operate without significant downtime (they also do not create direct link between your site and a foreign URL).

Should you use a URL shortening service? While the likelihood of a service like Bitly disappearing and causing our worst case scenario of hundreds or even thousands of broken links to your site spanning the internet isn’t incredibly high, it’s avoidable. Considering that there are alternatives that provide the same end result without the potential issue why not use one of them?

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